Gov. Larry Hogan has already failed two character tests in this year’s presidential race. Will he fail a third?
The George Washington Bridge scandal was rightly a major turning point in Chris Christie’s reputation. This unbelievably petty revenge on the Mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing his reelection bid revealed Christie as a bully and possibly also incompetent.
Christie may well have ordered the closure of the access lanes that led to the completely unnecessary gridlock, as suggested indirectly by his effort to stop New York Gov. Cuomo from investigating and attempts to downplay the events.
Alternatively, we can believe that Christie’s claims that he didn’t know. Of course, this requires belief that the same guy who took credit for being all over the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort had no idea what was going on in his office let alone the State. Moreover, he did such a poor job setting the tone among top aides that they thought this was acceptable behavior.
Neither option says much about Christie’s leadership skills but Hogan endorsed him anyway. No doubt Hogan sees himself as Christie’s ideological soulmate and wanted to repay Christie’s support during Hogan’s successful campaign.
The depth of Hogan’s poor judgement in supporting Christie became clear to all when beta male Christie rushed to endorse Donald Trump effusively after the Donald had beaten the bully and showed him who was the pack leader.
The Maryland Primary
By the time Maryland’s primary rolled around, the race was down to Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Not an enviable set of choices but a pretty easy one. I may not care for Kasich’s policies but he seems like a decent person. He probably wouldn’t be a great president (most aren’t) but I think most Americans wouldn’t sleep badly with him in the White House.
In contrast, Trump and Cruz are genuine dangers to the country. Trump is out of the same mold as extreme-right European politicians like France’s Marine Le Pen. Like her, he doesn’t care much for immigrants, is xenophobic to the point of suspicion of even our allies, has authoritarian tendencies, and lacks confidence that America can compete in a global economy. And these are his good qualities.
Cruz is a more home grown version of the extreme right. An social and economic extremist – one hesitates to label him “conservative” – this attorney believes that the president can nullify Supreme Court decisions that he deems unconstitutional, such as on gay rights. More popularly, he wants to eliminate the IRS, which will make collecting taxes for his expanded and busily bombing armed forces difficult.
While anyone who runs for president surely has a healthy ego, the level of narcissism in both and Trump and Cruz is extreme. During the unforgettable debate that discussed the size of Trump’s anatomy, Kasich was the only person on the stage who passed the “normal human” test.
Yet Gov. Hogan took a pass on exerting his considerable influence on Republican voters during the primary. Kasich may have had zero chance of winning the nomination even at that point but Hogan failed to stand up for his party or the country, as Trump went on to win 54% of the vote here.
And so it has come to this.
The Republican Party, a party with an illustrious history, is now reduced to nominating someone completely unfit for the office. He and his policies are not just disagreeable in the ordinary way that one often doesn’t care for the policies of the other party of their nominee. Trump’s ideas, such as they are, are abhorrent and ruinous. While terms like bigoted and sexist are sometimes thrown around too easily, they apply here.
Larry Hogan now faces a set of unenviable choices. He can endorse Trump, which seems unlikely if only because Hogan has a healthy instinct for political survival. Hogan could continue his silence in an effort to stay out of the fray and avoid alienating the majority of Republican voters who chose Trump and overlap with much of his own constituency.
Alternatively, Hogan can step up and speak plainly as to why Donald Trump doesn’t represent him, and should not lead the country that he loves. Hogan can explain that he’ll enthusiastically support other Republicans down the ballot but that he will leave the presidential ballot blank or write-in the name of some decent individual who shares his political convictions.
In short, he can do the right thing.
The real test of leadership is not when the path is easy but when you have to make politically difficult choices. The good news with this one is that the “man in the mirror” test should make it easy to make and to live with come what may.
I hope the Governor makes the right one. Frankly, the Republican Party and the country are going to need people who do.